Scotland in Europe Update 24th March 2017

This week my thoughts are with everyone caught up in the dreadful events in London. I wish to join with the president of the European Parliament and extend my deepest sympathies to the victims (

Though everything else seems to pale to insignificance in contrast to the loss of life, there have been some more developments this week. Notably, that we have a date. Article 50 will be triggered on the 29 March 2017 which is next Wednesday.



Jean Claude Juncker gave an interview to the BBC. In it he expresses his sadness that the UK is leaving but emphasises “we’ll negotiate in a friendly way, in a fair way and we are not naive.” He also emphasised that the €50 billion bill will be a reflection of “former commitments by the British government and by the British parliament. There will be no sanctions, no punishment, nothing of that kind.”

Realism and acceptance that Britain will have to pay its bills before departing the EU was the message from an interview Bloomberg conducted with the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem and Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg.

Interest in Scotland has never been greater. I gave a briefing this week to 20 or so French journalists on Scotland in Europe and the strange times we live in.

Mike Russell (the Scottish Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe) had to find out the date that Article 50 will be triggered from the BBC, not the UK Government.

EU leaders will hold a summit on April 29, one month after the submission of Article 50.

The EU and Japan are determined to have a trade deal delivered by the end of the year.

The European Commission has proposed a full ban on pesticides that can harm bees, according to draft documents seen by Politico.

The Scottish Centre on European Relations was launched this week. While quite rightly not taking a position on independence, it will be looking at all options for Scotland in or out of the EU. David Martin MEP and I will be on the Board of Advisors, making sure that Scotland’s voice won’t be ignored while Brexit rumbles on. You can read my first contribution here:

Airlines based in the UK have been advised to move to Europe to avoid losing major routes.

The European Parliament Research Service has published this briefing on the Impact and Consequences of Brexit for Northern Ireland.

Without access to the Single Market there will be “serious harm to sectors such as professional business, digital, broadcasting, aviation, and travel services” says the European Union Committee of the House of Lords. The Committee has published a report on the impact of the leaving the EU on trade in non-financial services.

The Federation of Small Businesses released its assessment of Brexit. The headline was “keep it easy” but the detail shows how important the single market is to smaller companies:

“Nine out of 10 exporting small businesses trade with the EU (92% of exporters and 85% of importers). One in five (21%) exporting small firms trade exclusively within the EU single market. However, the majority also trade outside the EU (78% of exporters and 67% of importers), which means that most small firms trading overseas do so both with the EU and non-EU markets (72% of exporters and 53% of importers).”

“Based on ease, cost and value (in terms of growth) of trade, small firms are significantly more likely to favour the EU single market over non-EU markets.”

The Institute for Government concluded that: “To make space for Brexit legislation, departments will need to ruthlessly prioritise other legislation and indeed find non-legislative approaches to achieving policy aims where possible.” The full report can be read here:

They also produced this handy timeline of what to expect over the next few months and years.

Robert Menasse, an Australian author, told the European Parliament to back Scotland over ‘London nationalists’.

The Italian newspaper Il Foglio dedicated an edition to ‘Scotland: A movement for independence’ that wants to work with Europe.

The City of London has started a campaign to lower taxes to offset Brexit.

Ireland will block any agreement that does not maintain open borders with Northern Ireland, said Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Movinga have launched a website that ranks which locations may be the most likely to gain from Brexit.

The Scottish Government signed an economic collaboration declaration with Bavaria.

Diarmaid Ferriter has written an interesting article in the Irish Times explaining some of the history of the Northern Irish border and assessing what the potential impact of leaving the EU could be.

The organisations of European universities, research-performing and research-funding institutions put together a statement on what they want from the future. I hope that Scottish universities will remain a part of this picture.

Finally, on the eve of the 60th Anniversary of the treaty of Rome I am about to board a plane to mark the occasion at the ceremony in Rome. I’ll be keeping you up to date via twitter so do follow: